It's Only Rock'n Roll
My 6th show of the tour (first 3 in Boston, MSG, Gund) 15th overall. My buddy's 2nd of the tour, 17th overall. We drove to Montreal from Western NY state. Another great solid show. I've seen almost all of it already, but it still amazes. Nearly five years to the day that the Ice Storm of '98 wiped out shows in Montreal, and Mick's laryngitis wiped out shows in Syracuse and Toronto (ice and Mick combination). Weather was o-k..very cold. But Mick is battling a cold, or something...again! He seems fine.
Highlights - - - - "Monkey Man" was great but no Lisa on vocals. She did appear on the next song, with her new short haircut and slimmer appearance. She looked great. "Sweet Virginia" was a more "electric" version. very cool. Introductions gave Ronnie a big ovation. His guitar was almost inaudible from our seats on the floor near the b-stage (Keith's side) It was a shame that we could not hear him well. Keith got a huge applause and had to interrupt and tell everyone, "hey, I've got a show to do!" laughing of course.... He did a brilliant "Slipping Away" very clear, heartfelt vocals...close to the studio version. The crowd gave him love all night. Keith dedicated it to "his blind angel, Rita....She knows", he said. ...The girl who helped bail him out with the judge in Toronto in '77. Rita was in attendance for the show.
"You Got Me Rocking" featured some new rhythmic riffs that were sweet by Ronnie...We could hear him better. "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" was solid as ever. Bobby's sax and Mick's harp...excellent. Mick did some new moves while on harp. He played and held the mic in one hand while gesturing with his free hand to the notes he was blasting. very cool to see. Ronnie blew us away with a nice loud solo that was very hot. The band hit the early transition in the song better than I've seen on any other show. B-stage was super. We were about ten feet away from Keith the whole time. Three more rolls of great photos for me. I've now been in that same spot, or even a little closer for three arena shows...plus my spot in the 7th row center for orpheum...How did I get so lucky? "When The Whip Comes Down" was the one new tune for the night. We did get a two song encore of "Sympathy For The Devil" and "Jumping Jack Flash" After the final chords, a fan tossed a brown fedora onto the stage. Mick picked it up before the final bow and read what seemed to be a note written inside the hat. He smiled and pointed to the fan. Who knows what it said? Mick wore ten or so flashing red-and-blue tongue pins during the encore...cool to see as he started Sympathy in the dark.
Bell Centre was packed to the rafters. Very good crowd....Excited to see the Stones. Mick did appear to be a little sniffly. He blew his nose between songs. This bears watching as he missed rehearsal on Monday. A big stretch this next week leading to the HBO show. Hopefully all goes well and Mick stays healthy. They rehearsed earlier in the week many songs that they did not use. Some could show up on the HBO setlist? - Going To A Go-Go, That's How Strong My Love Is, Harlem Shuffle, Can't Be Seen, Thru and Thru.
This could be my last show of the tour. But I suspect they will return to the US again next fall or in a year or two. They show no signs of let up. Charlie was so fresh and dominant in Montreal. He's the biggest key to the decision of the whole thing continuing on...and on...and on.
My buddy is having a big Stones party for the HBO show. He and his friends will play a Stones set list in the living room for 30 guests Full band, already rehearsing the setlist of about 12 songs. Then we'll all watch the main event on HBO. Next best thing to being there at MSG.
Mick talked about his last visit in Montreal in 1998. He remembered the Ice storm that forced the band to pospone the show from January to April. He talked quite a bit in French which was a appreciated by the crowd. Lisa gave also a good preformance, I like her look with her shorter hair. Charlie was sounding great like usual, the crowd went wild when Mick introduced him. When Keith was introduced, the response from the crowd was also great, he even said something like please stop, I have a show to do here. The highlights of the night for me were Sweet Virginia and Knocking. The boys did a very good job with those songs. I hope to see them again in the near future.
For me, the highlights were Sweet Virginia (played at the very top of the Exile set), Slipping Away, and Can't You Hear Me Knocking. Sweet Virginia has been a favorite of mine for many years, but I can't say as I've heard it at a show before. I've always thought it has the feel of a classic pub drinking song and so when the boys belted it out, it was cool to hear all of the other voices around me lustily singing along. Many of the folks in our section were hoisting pints of ale as they did so, which made the whole thing feel like it was an informal evening of fun at a tavern (with a fairly spectacular band playing, of course).
After a thunderous welcome from the crowd when Mick introduced him, Keith quieted us all down and then made a very rare dedication as he peered through the lights to pick out 'Blind Angel, 'Rita'. He waved out in her direction and began to sing Slipping Away. It was electrifying, very emotional and beautifully played.
Charlie and Daryll laid down the signature beat to the second movement of Can't You Hear Me Knocking (echoing Donald Dean's and Leroy Vinnegar's famous vamp that drives Les McCann's tune Compared to What), opening up plenty of space for Bobby and Mick to solo over. Bobby's solo was somewhat restrained but well played and Mick's was entertaining as hell, complete with funny hand gestures to the crowd as he teased his way out of it. But Ronnie really owned this tune. He showed great range; comping, spurting out blistering runs, and lending melodic fills throughout.
The Stones didn.t mail in their rundown of these old warhorses and that says something very positive about these guys. Without breaking new ground, they showed that they still have the chops and the energy to prove that they are among the elite of rock performers.
At that show they opened with All Down The Line and I was thrilled to hear them play it again tonight. I caught both Toronto shows in October 2002 and this Montreal show featuring Exile on Main Street was a real treat and comparable to that show. The Air Canada Centre show in Toronto featured Let it Bleed and it was great hearing Monkey Man again tonight (one of their underrated rockers). Can't You Hear Me Knocking, as many reviewers have noted (generally played at all arena shows), was worth the price of admission and to watch Keef admire Ronnie's Mick Tayloresque jazzy riffs from Charlie's vintage Gretsch kit with his pirate like grin is a pure joy to watch. Another treat was that great little bass and guitar call and response riff they pull out in the bridge in If You Can't Rock Me (just like they did on Love You Live while morphing from If You Can't Rock Me to Get Off Of My Cloud)
As for the sound, I thought it was a tad muddy (guitars not cutting enough) up until Tumbling Dice (I was in low reds on the Ronnie side - where Keef spends lots of time anyway) and overall not loud enough for my 42 year old ears but it improved as the night went on and the B stage sound (Mannish Boy, When The Whip Comes Down, Brown Sugar) was the best I have ever heard since they started doing the B stage thing.
The boys were in fine form all night and seemed to really be hamming it up more than usual (Keef was putting a little extra elbow in his chicken wings, Ronnie flexing his muscles etc.) The Christmas break has obviously stood the band well. There was also a great vibe in Montreal and the pre-gig fine dining with cranked Stones' tunes in the background really got people pumped. The Montreal crowd, interestingly enough, seemed much younger than the Toronto crowd and were really eating up this show from the opening riffs of Street Fighting Man (Keef decided he'd stay on his feet this time though).
The twenty something taxi driver on the way to the gig thought there was a hockey game on. I pointed out to him that "there was a little group from England playing called The Rolling Stones" and ventured that I heard "they were pretty good".
Love live open G guitar, lavender shirts and 5 string Telecasters!
My seat was so good that I never had to look at the big screen, it was all right there, but I must admit that the real close up face shots on Slipping Away were pretty cool. Mick's voice and energy level were amazing too. I think it was because it was the first show after the December break and they were all really rested and really fresh. Even Charlie was visibly moved by the whole thing. But perhaps most amazing of all was Ron Wood. You know all those amazing blues solos Mick Taylor used to play, I never considered Ronnie to be in the same league, that was until I saw what he did on Can't You Hear Me Knockin. They made it like a 15 minute jam, the singers all had shakers and stuff, really cool, mellow lighting like they were all just sitting around at home and just burned one, they all took solos, and near the end he just went wild. Bouncing all around the stage, almost like his whole body was vibrating, blasting the most searing blues solo I have ever heard at a Stones show, or just about any other show for that matter. He is totally clean and sober now, and I think it's really working for him. He never let up all night and really wove in with Keith and the whole rhythm drive. So after that, I was thinking, what can they do to top that?
Well, they proceeded to totally rip Satisfaction, a pretty good answer. Talk about a dream set list too. Opened with Street Fighting Man, then It's Only Rock N Roll, then something , maybe the new one, then Monkey Man, which was stunning because of the insane Keith riff and Jagger's MMMMMonkey delivery. Wow. Then a bunch of stuff from Exile on Main Street, which they were sort of trying to spotlight a little, All Down the Line, Rocks Off, Sweet Virginia, Tumblin Dice. Of course Start Me Up was in there somewhere. Keith also played Before They Make Me Run. When the Whip Comes Down, Brown Sugar at the end. Encore was Sympathy for the Devil and Jumpin Jack Flash.
I never did find the damned place with Woodie's art exhibit. I set out on foot and it was WAY out across the city. I literally walked all over Montreal. But I got in early, got a good parking space, and thougt that would be ok, keep me from drinking all afternoon. I kept asking directions and most people didn't know where it was. But some nice, however stupid, french guy told me wrong. After going like 12 blocks or more, he sent me right to Old Montreal, I should have turned left. By the time I got all the way down to the river, I was tired and it was snowing like crazy so I said fuck it, it's time to head back. Then a really funny thing happened, I came upon a crowd of people on the sidewalk, turns out it was their hotel and everyone was waiting for them to come out to ride over to the Molson Center. Just like some kind of beatlemania, which, a very nice girl seated next to me at the show later informed me was officially dead, the crowd at the recent Sir Paul show was way lame compared to the Stones crowd. Well, after we all got frostbite they did come out, the cops pushed back, it was hilarious. First van pulls up and Chuck Leavell and some girls get in. Next van, Bernard Fowler, and the horns. Next van, Darryl Jones, Lisa Fischer. Nice little car pulls up, Charlie Watts' ride, he actually stopped for a couple of autographs, I couldn't believe that. Next little car, Sir Mick. Crappy looking conversion van, Keith. Last van, Ronnie and his wife. So off I went to have dinner and couple of pints before the show. Made it through customs no problem and was home by 115. Pretty cool.
Great song list, Exile is my favorite album anyway. The coolest thing for me was watching how the crowd reacted to the boys. Man there sure was a lot of love and admiration for the boys being displayed. Next time they should kick off their rehersals and tour in Montreal..... The city obviously loves em. But then again I talked to People from New Brunswick, PEI, Maine, Vermont so a lot of out of towners.
My favorite songs that night were Slippin Away, Til they Make me Run and although its over done, IORR was just great that night. Great show! The only problem is that I got kinda lost on the way out, I was staying one block from Bell Center and it still ended up taking me 20 frickin minutes to find the hotel and it was cold Man. Anyway, great night, great frickin show, great crowd, great band. Mick, Keith, Ron, Charlie, Darrell and the rest of the band, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR A GREAT TIME.
Thanks to Axel Schumacher, Mark Fitzgerald and Høgne Midjord for links information.
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It's Only Rock'n Roll 2003 -
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